The Journey’s End…Almost

helloI can finally say that I am almost finished with the KonMari of my house. It’s been over a year since I began, but as I’ve said in earlier posts, life sometimes gets in the way. That and the fact that being retired gave me absolutely no concrete deadline to finish- and I’m a person who needs deadlines to keep me going. So let me fill you in on where I am in the process now.

Sentimental – Work Related

I spent 30 years in education all in one school district. 28 of those years were spent at one school. In those 28 years, I changed rooms only four times, so I didn’t cull much. And being a teacher, you keep everything – “just in case”. So I brought home with me the contents of a four-drawer file cabinet that contained every appraisal, certificate, note – you name it – that I received over 30 years. I knew I wouldn’t continue to keep all of it, but I needed to be in the right mindset to go through it all to make the decisions about what would remain. After being retired a year, I could feel that the emotional attachment was lessening, so I opened the tubs and began my trip down memory lane.

I read through my very first teaching evaluation when I was as green as green could be. It was done by hand on the old, familiar, white-pink-yellow carbon backed paper of the time. It was a 1st-grade science lesson that somehow incorporated the making of paper pinwheels that the students affixed to their pencils with a straight pin. (Our evaluations were called dog-and-pony shows back then.) Not surprisingly, I had plenty of room for improvement. I saved that appraisal. As I went through the folders, I could mark the evolution of technology by those appraisals – from handwritten entries on carbon-backed paper to handwritten entries on dot-matrix printed forms to handwritten entries on laser printed sheets to all-electronic input only to be printed for a signature.

As our technology improved, so did I as a teacher. I kept one appraisal from each of the varying incarnations, an additional one if I found one that meant more to me. I kept every single note I had from a student or parent. I kept all of the positive notes I received from my principals – and even a couple of the negative ones too. I kept a few pieces of student work that held meaning for me, and the 5th-grade signature t-shirts that we had made each year. I kept copies of the letters I wrote to my principals, superintendent, and the school board over various issues that raised my ire over the years. Yearbooks and lanyards stay. I kept the desk sign with my maiden name from my first years of teaching and the door sign with my married name thereafter.

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30 years of teaching

I laughed, I reminisced, and I read aloud bits and pieces to my husband. I gave thanks for those 30 years – for helping to shape the person I am today, for introducing me to incredible women who have become life-long friends, for putting all those children in my life, some of whom I am still close to today. Then I put the lid on the tub and put it on a shelf. I am grateful for everything those items represent but now it is time to move forward.

Other People’s Stuff

You can’t KonMari other people’s stuff but if you’re lucky, they’ll start doing it on their own. My daughter came home for a couple of weeks over the summer. More than likely, she will never live home again, so she was agreeable to going through her room and doing a final purge-and-sort. Her room can now serve as a proper guest room.

My husband, however, has had the biggest transformation.  I have felt like the walls of the garage were – both literally and figurately – closing in on us. But the idea of simplifying has caught on with him as well, so he finally tackled a good portion of his garage clutter. He had fives sets of 5-shelf shelving units. He now has one – ONE. He still has not parted with any of his Coke memorabilia, but the progress he did make has been astounding. And we now have more room to store his Coke stuff (out of sight, mostly), so I am okay with that. I kept some of my junior high t-shirts – I can hardly begrudge him this!

He has come to realize as we’ve gotten older that, yeah, he could do a lot of the home repairs and projects himself, but he doesn’t always want to. Paying someone else can sometimes be more economical – and less stressful. So that made it much easier for him to part with junction boxes, three of the five heavy duty staple guns, and numerous other workshop items.  Except for the metal tape measures – he has over a dozen of those – and I have no idea why.

Sell, Donate, Toss

I’m not a huge fan of having a garage sale – I like the money, but not the effort – but we had too much stuff to just give it all away, so we had our second and final garage sale of this process. And a large portion of what we sold this time were storage items –  shelves, bins, and crates. When you declutter, you have much less need for places to store things. And my husband didn’t bat an eye. He said if he kept the shelves, he’d find things to put on them. No storage, no flat surface – no clutter. We sold a lot, we donated a lot, and the trash/recycle men will be cursing us this week. But we both feel so much lighter and freer.

What’s Next?

This should have been the end according to the KonMari method but I have saved photos for last. If you follow me, you know I have over 60 photo albums and a few boxes of loose photos as well. This is a problem our children will never know because their photographic history exists on their phones and the cloud. But much like I love to read a real book that I can hold in my hands, I prefer printed photos for the memories that I want to keep. The holiday season is approaching so I will not tackle photos until January. I’m hoping for some cold, dreary days in front of the fireplace for that project. And there are still some small home projects that I want to complete before the holidays, so KM will take a backseat for the moment. But I will be back!

KonMari for the Classroom

KMClassroomWell, it is August 1, and for many, especially my educator friends here in Texas, that means another school year is on the horizon. Ready to tackle your classroom with a renewed sense of purpose and organization? Wondering how to KonMari your classroom? Well, you are in luck!  I’ve decided to share some ideas on this. I spent 30 years in education – 15 as a classroom teacher, 11 as a technology facilitator, and 4 as a media specialist. In each of those roles, organization was always a high priority for me.  I can’t function in a mess, and I truly believe that most students can’t either. Even if being organized wasn’t a natural state for my students, they learned to be at least for the time they were in my room. I had systems in place for everything from turning in assignments to selecting the desired lunch item.  I could go on and on about ways to keep the kids organized (and I will), but you can’t get them organized if you aren’t organized yourself.

Create a Vision

Before you start unpacking all the boxes and bins that were stored for the summer, I want you to create a vision for your classroom. In your perfect world, what does your classroom look like? What’s on the walls?  How are the shelves organized? What systems do you want in place for your students to promote self-sufficiency? Think about the atmosphere you want to create. How do you want it to feel for your students as they walk in each day?  Draw a picture, make a list, print out your favorite pins from Pinterest – do whatever you need to so that you have something tangible that represents your vision. Now I want you to tape it to a wall or tack it to a bulletin board so that you see it every day while you are preparing your classroom for the coming year. This will be your reminder of what’s important to you and will help to keep you on track.

How Will This Work?

We’ll tackle your classrooms in a similar way to how Kondo recommends doing your home – sorting by category, discarding first, and using the storage containers and spaces you already have.  When we tidy our homes with the KonMari Method, we all know the key question is,  “Does this spark joy?” But that question is not as likely to work here – before you know it, you’d have an empty room! But you can still approach it from a positive viewpoint.  So while you’re standing there holding a stack of old newsprint, ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to keep?”  “Is this still useful to me?”  I’m willing to bet that a large portion of what we have in our cabinets is there simply because it always has been.  It might have been something that was useful once, but it’s not any longer, and we just don’t take the time to dispose of it. Now is that time.

Don’t Buy Storage Bins

I know you – teachers are lured by pretty bins and tubs and baskets in matching or coordinating colors and patterns. And with back-to-school stuff out now, it all screams, “Buy me!”  But I beg you – don’t do it.  First of all, the storage bins themselves take up a lot of prime real estate.  Secondly, as you are discarding, you will probably free up space in the bins and baskets you already have.  Wait until you’ve discarded everything and then see if additional containers are still necessary

 

Change Your Mindset

This will be toughest of all.  Teachers are pack-rats by nature for a couple of reasons.  1) We don’t make a lot of money, so we tend to keep anything that we think can be of use, and 2) Our frugality makes us industrious, so we are convinced that everything can be used for something.  Stop the madness! Eliminate “just in case” as a reason for keeping things. When was the last time you actually did an art project in your classroom?  I bet it’s been long enough that you can probably let go of the paint and yarn and craft sticks (at least some of them, anyway).

I speak from experience.  Before I retired, I spent weeks going through old files and boxes. We all know things can change in an instant so even though I had been out of the classroom for fifteen years, I kept things “just in case” I had to go back.  Well, that never happened and even if it had, much of what I kept couldn’t have been reused. I’m pretty sure a worksheet I made using a Thermofax machine back in the ’80s would hardly be relevant today.

So today is step one – create that vision for your classroom, and display it prominently in your room.  Then get ready to make that vision a reality.

My next post will focus on the category you probably have the most of – paper. Subscribe to this blog or check back in a couple of days, and be ready to KonMari your classroom.